Eagle Pass Family 'In Awe' of NICU Nurses at CHRISTUS

Baby boy wheelerTwenty-two weeks into her pregnancy, Dolly Flores eagerly anticipated her second sonogram. Earlier in her pregnancy, she learned she was expecting a boy – her third son! However, as she and her husband desperately hoped for a baby girl this time around, she promptly scheduled an appointment at CHRISTUS Children’s in San Antonio. This decision came after her OB/GYN in Eagle Pass, Texas, recommended a second scan due to her age.

“The pregnancy was going so well; I didn’t even have morning sickness,” recalled Flores, 36. “They considered it a high-risk pregnancy. And we were still holding out hope for a daughter, so we thought it was a good chance to find out for sure.”

The second sonogram revealed bad news.

Dolly’s cervix was thinning out too early in the pregnancy. This meant she may not be able to carry the baby through the second trimester, much less to term. Her doctor recommended a cerclage – a procedure in which the cervical opening is stitched closed to prevent or delay preterm birth.

Prescription: Hospital Bedrest

Returning home to rest and stay off her feet for the remainder of the pregnancy presented significant risk for both Dolly and her baby so instead she was admitted to CHRISTUS Children’s.

“I had no choice. I was told I had to stay in the hospital for the rest of the pregnancy if I wanted to keep the baby out of danger,” she said. “We wanted to keep him inside as long as possible.”

One week into her unplanned “vacation,” Dolly started to have contractions! I immediately said, ‘No way! It’s too soon! These can’t really be contractions,’” Flores recalled. “But they were!”

The good news: Dolly had already been planning on having a Cesarean section. She had her first and second sons, then 11 and 1½ years old, by C-section.

The bad news: When the contractions started, she was moved at lightning speed to the operating room for an emergency C-section. She said she didn’t know people could move so fast.

Before she knew it, she was being put under anesthesia; there was no time for epidurals or nerve blocks. The baby was on his way.

Happy Birthday Baby Boy Wheeler!

It was May 3, 2023, and Baby Ethan James Wheeler was born 17 weeks premature. He weighed 1 pound, 4 ounces and measured 11 inches long.

“He was so little. I think I was crying louder than the baby,” she said.

But Baby Ethan was doing quite well for his weight, considering his early entrance into the world. He was taken to the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) at CHRISTUS Children’s right away, a level IV NICU specifically designed to care for high-risk infants like Ethan.

Ethan’s daddy, Jaime, wasn’t allowed in the OR. And, when she woke up after the surgery, Dolly didn’t get to see her newborn for 24 hours.

“I wasn’t ready emotionally to see him. I didn’t want to get attached,” said Dolly. “I didn’t want to hold the baby and have him not make it.”

Everything changed in her mind the moment she saw her newborn son. She bonded immediately with her son the moment she held him. Ethan’s dad, uncles, aunts and grandparents came to CHRISTUS Children’s to get a glimpse of the newest member of the family.

“I was amazed the first time I got to the NICU. I saw so many young nurses and thought, ‘Oh my, these young nurses are the ones who will take care of him? But they surprised me so much,” Dolly said. “I was always in awe of them.”

Dolly was discharged a couple of days after Ethan was born. Before leaving, she took one quick photo – his first – of Baby Ethan. She was so sad to leave without him but said she knew he was in wonderful hands. He stayed in the NICU and was loved and cared for by the CHRISTUS Children’s award-winning doctors and nurses Dolly said she will never be able to thank enough.

T-110 Days

On May 5, Mom and Dad went home to Eagle Pass. Dolly soon went back to work at the local car dealership where she is parts and service director and Dad, Jaime, went back to work as a mechanic in his own shop, Wheeler Auto Repair.

On June 3, on Ethan’s 1-month birthday, Mom got to hold him for the first time. He was so small; he fit in my hand. I got to hold him for two hours.”

Every Saturday for the next 2 ½ months, they traveled to San Antonio to visit their baby. Week by week, they watched him growing stronger.

One of Ethan’s physicians, Dr. Maria Pierce or Dr. Cheryl Motta, called Dolly daily with updates on the baby’s progress and she often was able to see him on a doctor’s iPad.

“They were so good about keeping me updated,” Dolly said. “They gave me so many details about what was going on with him.”

“Ethan is a beautiful—and strong—little boy,” said Dr. Pierce. “He had an amazing will to live, although there were good and bad days, we never had a day when we truly feared losing Ethan. That is truly miraculous for a baby born so premature. His parents’ commitment to their newborn, along with the dedicated care provided by our skilled, experienced NICU team, made all the difference.”

The first time Dolly was able to bathe Ethan, she said she was very nervous. Even though she was already an experienced mom, she was worried about hurting her tiny little boy. “I’ll never forget the male nurse, Jesse. He helped me so much and made me feel much more secure about handling Ethan,” she said.

“I also want to recognize Emily. She is such a wonderful nurse, too. All of Ethan’s nurses were amazing. They always answered my questions. They were so patient and kind. They made me feel like I wasn’t missing so much.”

As the next couple of months went by, Ethan was progressing bit by bit. He was discharged on August 21, wearing newborn diapers and clothing.

Baby boy wheeler with mom and dadAnd, two months later, he is growing stronger every day and never misses a meal, Mom said.

To learn more about the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) at CHRISTUS Children’s, please visit CHRISTUS Children’s | NICU (christushealth.org).

Baby boy wheeler and brother

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